- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Immigration advocates yesterday announced plans for a 63-city rally on Monday that they hope will attract at least 2 million supporters to protest pending immigration reform legislation and press lawmakers into granting millions of current illegal aliens a path toward permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.

The advocates also called for a nationwide one-day boycott of work, school and shopping May 1 to protest the House and the Senate immigration reform bills.

Calling the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice “a true grass-roots movement,” Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition, said, “We want to announce to the world and our elected officials that we are not criminals, that the sleeping giant that was once sleeping is now awake.

“Enough is enough. We’re not here to be used as scapegoats for political campaigns,” he said during a press conference yesterday at the U.S. Capitol.

The advocates also will urge defeat of the House bill, which was approved last year and, among other things, increases immigration enforcement and border security, makes illegal entry a felony, requires employers to check the legal status of workers and penalizes those who help in illegal entry.

“We’re building as we speak,” said Mr. Contreras, whose group is planning the nationwide protest with dozens of other organizations.

Rallies last month drew well more than 10,000 each to Phoenix, Milwaukee and Denver, and an estimated 500,000 to Los Angeles. About 80,000 Hispanics walked off their jobs in Atlanta.

Organizers again expect the largest protests to strike major cities, including Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the Great American Boycott of 2006 is being organized for May 1 by Latino Movement USA.

“We’re flexing our muscles to send a message that we are not criminals,” the group’s director, Juan Jose Gutierrez, said yesterday during a separate D.C. press conference.

Mr. Gutierrez, whose organization helped coordinate the Los Angeles rally, called a pending Senate bill that would create a guest-worker program and put millions of illegal aliens on track toward permanent residency an “encouraging sign,” but described it as too hard on those seeking citizenship.

“We think that the right thing to do is to grant full rights, full equality, under the laws in the Constitution of the United States to all immigrants, period,” he said.

Yesterday, black and Hispanic leaders — including South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, House Democratic Caucus chairman and Congressional Black Caucus member, and Hilary Shelton , director of the D.C. bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — connected immigrants’ and illegal aliens’ fight to that of blacks during the civil rights movement.

Organizers are discouraging student walkouts, which last week took the region and the country by storm and were marred by the stabbing of a Northern Virginia high school student.

“We are encouraging students to get involved through the community organizations that are putting these events together,” Mr. Contreras said.

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